Kurds reject Syrian opposition’s transition plan

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Syrian Kurdish female fighters of the YPJ. File photo

ARA News 

QAMISHLI – Syrian Kurds were angered by the recent transition plan, proposed by the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee, as the plan does not envision any form of federalism in post-war Syria. 

The High Negotiations Committee for the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) proposed the principle of administrative decentralization in managing the country’s affairs.

“Giving the people of each governorate and district a role in managing their local affairs: economic, communal, and daily life affairs in ways that do not adversely affect the unity of the country,” the proposal said.

However, the Kurds are not satisfied with the transition plan, which does not recognize any form of autonomy for the Kurds.

“This proposed plan makes one feels sorry for the Syrian situation; after five years of bloodshed, the opposition is still thinking and acting in the same political way,” Bader Mustafa, a member of the Kurdish Youth Movement (TCK), told ARA News.

“The Syrian opposition wants to replace the Assad regime with the same centralised power,” he said. “I am sure they will not achieve this, and the civil war will continue in Syria as long as this opposition keeps thinking in this Baathist way.” 

Kurdish activists also expressed their anger with the Kurdish National Council (KNC) which is still part of the Syrian opposition bloc.

“The KNC is still part of SNC, but the SNC has a narrow view on Kurdish rights in Syria, and insists that the administration will only be local, with no kind of recognition of any self-administration,” Mustafa said.

Speaking to ARA News, Zara Salih, a member of the Kurdish Yekiti Party in Syria, said that there is no difference between the Syrian opposition and the Baath-regime.

“To convince the Syrian opposition on Kurdish rights cannot be achieved, because they are the students of the Baathist and Arab nationalist culture,” he said. “They cannot change their mentality over the night.” 

Salih pointed out that the KNC failed to recognize Kurdish rights at the 2011 Tunis Conference and at subsequent conferences in Geneva and Riyadh. “The Syrian opposition members keep showing a racist attitude towards the Kurds without much of a response from the KNC,” Salih told ARA News. 

Therefore, the Kurdish politician suggested that it would be better for the KNC to withdraw from the Syrian opposition, and try to reach a deal with the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The PYD recently signed an agreement with Syria’s Tomorrow Movement led by Ahmed Jarba, the former head SNC, recognizing the Canton administrations. 

“The announced autonomous administration in the areas of al-Jazeera, Kobane and Afrin in northern Syria are accepted and commitments are made to adhere to their laws and the decisions of the courts,” the agreement said.

According to Walid Shekho, a Syrian Kurdish politician, federalism could guarantee the rights of the Kurdish people and other minorities in Syria.

 “I think federalism is a basic right. The best step to realize our right is to unite the Kurds and draw a road map solution for Rojava and the rest of Syria,” Shekho told ARA News. “Of course, with consultation with the US and EU.” 

Michael Stephens, Research Fellow for Middle East Studies and Head of RUSI Qatar, told ARA News that unlike the Syrian opposition and PYD, the KNC’s aims are Kurdish nationalist in character.   

“The KNC insistence on Kurdish rights and identity being explicitly stated made their position ultimately untenable with mainstream opposition positions,” Stephens said. 

“The PYD has been more ecumenical in this regard, but the KNC has long insisted on ethnic national identity as being the main underpinning of their ideas which cannot be compatible with larger opposition goals,” he added. “To this end, it is not surprising that a split has opened up; their end goals were never the same. The KNC wants an autonomous Kurdish controlled entity. They’re very clear about it.” 

Minorities’ Rights Excluded 

The Kurdish National Council in Syria (KNC) in an official statement rejected a transition plan proposed by the the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC), that is now lobbying in New York for this transition plan. According to the KNC, the proposed plan does not recognise the Kurdish rights in Syria.

On September 19th, a delegation of the HNC campaigns for this paper at the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly in New York without taking into account the reservations submitted by the KNC, the Kurdish council said on Tuesday. 

On September 7, 2016, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) released a document in London called “Executive Framework for a Political Solution”, representing its draft for a transitional period in Syria which does not recognize any form of federalism, or the new self-administrations set up by the Syrian Kurds.

Dr Riyad Hijab, the General Coordinator of the HNC, addressed a Ministerial event hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and co-sponsored by France, Germany, Qatar, Turkey, the United States and the United Kingdom on Monday, calling for the establishment of a Transitional Governoring Body, and elections under international supervision.

“This document is not part of a solution, but rather a danger to a democratic, pluralistic and unified Syria guaranteeing cultural, social and political rights to all its ethnic, religious and linguistic groups,” the KNC statement said.

The KNC was especially angered that the transition plan refers to Islam and Arab culture as the source “for intellectual production and social relations” in Syria. 

“This definition clearly excludes other cultures – be they ethnic, linguistic or religious – and sets the majority culture as the leading one,” the Kurdish National Council said.

“As Syrian Kurds, we feel repulsed by this narrow perception of the Syrian people. The similarities between this definition and the chauvinist policies under the Assad regime are undeniable,” it added.

The KNC demanded the recognition and the support of cultural diversity in Syria through a visible acknowledgement of all components of the Syrian people and by protecting their equal rights.

Moreover, the KNC also disagrees that Arabic is the only official language, without recognizing Kurdish or Aramic as second official languages. 

Furthermore, the Kurdish council said that the document ignores the followers of other religions like Christians, Yezidis and even non-believers. “This is one of the reasons why the KNC strongly advises to add secularism to the principles of the ruling system.” 

Moreover, the KNC said the decentralization, as well as the provision of a two-third majority vote in case of no consensus, will lead to Arabic domination. “This will not lead to the protection of minorities but rather to the domination of the Arab majority in Syria. Other Syrians will not have the chance to substantially influence politics.” 

“The current formulations allow for a centralised authoritarian rule of the majority over minority groups. As a result, this document can neither facilitate (social) peace nor democracy,” the KNC stressed. 

The Kurdish council called on the international community to take a stand for ethnic, religious, linguistic diversity, equality, political decentralisation and democracy as essential parts of any agreement structuring the transitional period and the future of Syria.

The KNC might consider leaving the Syrian opposition if it does not change it’s views on Kurdish political rights.

“If the international community would allow the potential exclusion of the Syrian Kurds from political participation in their country – an option in no way ruled out by the HNC’s “Executive Framework” –  the Kurdish people would not only face hard times, but may have to take critical decisions regarding their future,” the KNC concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Source: ARA News

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One thought on “Kurds reject Syrian opposition’s transition plan”

  1. dutchnational says:

    The KNC with a narrow nationalism in mind will not be able to gain anything within Syria as nobody in Syria wants to support their project as it is exclusive.

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